There are two main reasons socks are among the most valuable piece of clothing to people without permanent housing. For one, feet work overtime when there’s no cozy home (and laundry room) to return to each night. The other reason is that socks and underwear aren’t often donated or, when they are, the goods can’t be sanitized and put to use.
If you put yourself in someone else’s shoes (no pun intended), you can see how clean, warm socks are a true treasure. To make a difference this season, consider holding your own sock drive for homeless and otherwise less fortunate families. Here’s how.
Recognize the Difference
A food drive is quite straightforward, and so is a coat collection. Most philanthropic donation efforts are, by nature, pretty simple. A DIY sock drive, however, can be a little confusing for donors, so you need to prepare yourself for what may feel like over-communication. Gear up to potentially find yourself in more of an educational role.
Many people who have gone before have been generous enough to collect and assemble lessons learned, so you can build upon that success instead of starting from scratch. Check out organizations like Homeless Connections, Socks4Cancer, and Joy of Sox. A quick glance at their campaigns gives you both practical tools and the emotional inspiration you need to get started.
Assemble Your Team
You can’t run a successful sock drive for homeless locals all on your own. Even something as fundamental as decision-making can be shouldered by friends and neighbors. The more effectively you outsource the hard work, the more likely you are to hold another collection campaign in the future. Some roles you may need are:
- A chairman to answer questions and make decisions when you’re not around
- A treasurer to collect and track financial donations and gift cards
- A creative marketing ninja for advertising
- A handful of folks to actually handle the goods: sorters, packers, and delivery people
- A writer or photographer to document the heartwarming stories that emerge
Determine Your Drive Type
Some activists prefer an ongoing collection while others like to do it all in one big effort. One is more low-key with opportunity for donors to engage in friendly competition (think this-school-versus-that-school to see who collects the most) while the other event is more high profile with the potential for more press attention. Sit down with your team and weigh the pros and cons of each, and decide which is best for your donation drive.
Next up is picking a date. Choosing one can be difficult, especially with more team members. Again, get everyone’s input and choose a weeklong drive for your low-key method or a weekend evening for a “sock hop” or benefit concert event.
Discuss why socks are a unique need to people on the streets. Call in a podiatrist to explain how foot health affects the rest of a body. Rehearse answers to frequently asked questions, and emphasize the need to vocally highlight the fact that the donations must be new.
Drum up Support
Next, grab your whole team and brainstorm who would best help your cause. Because all donations must be new and in-package, benevolent supporters are often motivated to offer cash as well. Use this to your advantage by asking businesses for matching donations and recommending they make event and cross-promote on social media themselves. After all, since your team has already done the mental heavy lifting, the others simply need to show up.
Decorate the Containers
Your creative team members will love this part. Collect everyone’s arts and craft supplies, and create fun and informative donation bins for fellow philanthropists to fill. Include compelling facts like this nugget from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA: Most people walk an average of four miles a day, but our homeless neighbors average ten—a painful difference.
On the day of your drive launch, there will still be a few details to wrap up, but don’t get bogged down by too many things to do. Instead, try to enjoy. Focus on listening to donors, passersby, and donation recipients.
Cozy toes equate to more than just comfort for people without adequate shelter; it also spells a bigger economic capacity to help, according to research. In other words, we spend less time, energy, and money on folks whose foot issues are taken care of. This keeps small complaints from spreading and causing other, more serious, problems. And the more resources we save, the more people we can help.
Do you plan on hosting your own sock collection at your school or in your community? Let us know how it goes on Twitter!
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.